|Tim crosses the finish line in 3rd & we are both a bit excited!!!|
Crossing the finish line in Madison for the masters 40-44 race taught me that my love of racing cyclocross may run a bit deeper than I thought. Before this mess with back surgery, my goal was to race one more season of national/international 'cross, attempt (and hopefully succeed) to race Worlds on U.S. soil in Louisville and then go back to 'normal' life. I am not sure how I stand with that now that life didn't go as planned.
August 10th was d-day. Post surgery I knew instantly I had made the right decision, but it sucked all the same. I knew this meant no cyclocross for me in 2012. My goals for the season. Poof. Gone. October 2, I had my follow up appointment with my surgeon. This is when I began scheming on a partial comeback. No cyclocross season meant no UCI points meant eligible for masters worlds 2013. Tim was going anyways. Could I be ready and healthy enough to do it too? Dr. Shanno (who seemed to understand what cx was) said he didn't see a problem with it. As long as I was sensible and I didn't crash. I guess he didn't understand me or cx that well after all.
Fast forward to January 10, 2013. I was more nervous lining up for this masters race than I had been for a very long time. I had NO confidence in my abilities, having been crushed in mock races weekends prior. I knew I had to just be ok with racing and having fun. It wasn't always about winning. Starting in the 'back' (there were only 2 rows plus 1), I used my start abilities and crept forward. Took the "B" line onto the soccer field and then found myself in the front of the race. I kept focused, smooth and didn't look back. It was exhilarating being back on a cx course. And racing. I was having so much fun that although I 'cared' how I did, I really didn't care. I didn't look around or know I had a substantial gap. I just rode my race, stayed smooth, didn't crash and when I saw that finish line and no one in sight behind me, the tears started coming. I was shocked. But I think the relief of accomplishing a goal, being back on the bike and simply having so much fun, I was overwhelmed. And when I don't know how to express my emotions, I just cry. It works for me. And it was a really good feeling to have my first race of the season go so well.
Friday I was back to doing what I had been doing most of the season: pitting for Tim. I was very familiar with this duty. But somehow that didn't make me less nervous. Tim had been working so hard all season. With a lot of stress in his life, cx had become his outlet and he had just missed the podium last year. It is always a lot easier for me when he has a good race or the race he had expected. After his pre-ride, he came back to the car and said, "that was the most frightening course I have ever ridden." Apparently it was still pretty icy and slippery, being the first race of the day. I was so nervous in the pit. He had a great start and was right where he needed to be in the soccer field the first time through and then waiting in the pit on the other side, out of the fog the first rider became visible and holy shit! It was Tim. I was going crazy. He was in the lead of the race. Granted, it didn't hold, but for a lap, Tim was just behind Don Myrah (the ultimate winner) and they had gotten a gap. Tim fell off his pace and 3rd place was charging. Eventually 3rd got around him, but Tim never gave up. Sitting in the pit, I knew, barring a catastrophe, a podium was inevitable. I was ecstatic. I knew that although he may finish 3rd instead of 2nd, he would still be over the moon. Everything went right. No crashes, no mechanicals, no body failures, etc. It was a good week for the Butlers! And not to take away from my accomplishment, but Tim's 3rd place was a much bigger accomplishment than mine. His category is crazy fast. And it could have been anyone's day. But he made it his and he goes into masters worlds with a renewed spirit and confidence.
Cyclocross, however, is not just about the racing. It is about the friends who we race with and against, the friends who host us when we travel. Lucky for me, I have a good college friend from Drake who lives in Madison. It has been awesome the past years to have a USGP in Sun Prairie and then nationals. Because I was not racing elite, we finally had a chance to go out on the town and treat our friends to a well deserved dinner for continually opening their home to our bikes, mud and racing chaos. Thank you family Sloan. We couldn't have done it without you and visiting you is a motivator to keep racing.
A few links for family to enjoy:
USA Cycling article
CX Magazine: Tim's race
CX Magazine: My race
My somewhat embarrassing sobbing video on USA Cycling